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HPV Test Spots Cervical Cancer Earlier Than Pap Smear: Study
Date:12/15/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) - To catch cervical cancer or the lesions that can lead to it, a human papillomavirus (HPV) test is the best option for women over 30, Dutch researchers report.

Using it in conjunction with the more traditional Pap smear resulted in earlier detection of precancerous lesions and prevented more cervical cancers from developing, said study author Dr. Chris Meijer, a professor of pathology at VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

The study is published online Dec. 15 in The Lancet Oncology.

Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, a virus spread through sexual intercourse. Some HPV strains are more strongly linked with the cancer than others.

The superiority of HPV testing over traditional Paps at finding precancerous cervical lesions is established, Meijer noted. However, his team wanted to see if HPV testing also offered better protection and detection long-term -- in two screenings done over a five-year period.

They found it did.

While five years may sound like a long lag time between screenings, it is not, he said. "The Netherlands already has a screening interval of five years, starting from 30 years of age until 60 years," he said. The program is inexpensive and effective, he added.

In the study, Meijer's team evaluated nearly 45,000 women, aged 29 to 56. Women in one group got a traditional Pap smear and an HPV DNA test. The women in the other group got just the Pap test.

Five years later, all women got both tests.

The researchers looked to see whether HPV tests resulted in fewer high-grade cervical lesions and cervical cancer in the second screening, due to earlier detection and treatment.

In the first screen, the HPV tests found more of the early changes that can precede cervical cancer than the Pap smear alone did.

Five years later, far fewer women in the HPV group had
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